I was never a child who dreamed of setting up a home or even getting married. In fact, when I was a young woman in high school and I imagined the future, I imagined what I called my Banana Republic Season: I would wear crisp Oxford shirts, live in New York City, and work as a journalist. I’d be a new version of Nora Ephron, crafting witty and memorable turns of phrase. I didn’t give much thought to what my living situation would be beyond the city.
I moved to Chicago for college and later to Austin and Nashville for work. I did the city thing, but was floating around from apartment to apartment. A few years ago, I moved back to New England (where I attended grad school years before) and I signed a lease for a little apartment. I knew I’d be here at least a year, maybe two.
I was met with old friends who helped me do the heavy lifting of moving, and this little space was turned from an empty few rooms into something vaguely familiar — though I didn’t even have a place to put my keys and was learning where my dishes would go. But with each small furniture find or purchase, I filled out my small apartment, replacing IKEA bargains with shelves and pieces that I re-painted and made my own.
It was 2019 and I had no idea what was coming.
No idea that a few weeks later I’d lose my job.
No idea that a few weeks after that, I’d get a call from a dear friend telling me she was sick.
No idea that I’d grieve the loss of that friend and then a global pandemic would keep me in this little apartment way more than I ever anticipated.
When COVID hit, I started going room-by-room and making sure everything had a place. I figured that if I was going to be stuck in these rooms, I might as well like them and get acquainted with their quirks. I unpacked those boxes that had been lingering during the season of transition, but I always left one closet untouched. I worried that if I tackled that last task of organizing, I’d have nothing else to distract me from the tiredness and raw grief I was wading through. What I didn’t realize was that in doing so, I was also avoiding settling down and settling in.
This summer, in the midst of wondering what is next in ‘my one wild and precious life,’ as Mary Oliver would say, I asked the Lord where He wanted me to focus my attention. Perhaps there would be a new task, adventure, or hobby on the horizon!
As I prayed, the idea that came to the surface was the encouragement to make a home. To settle down and settle in. It felt a little silly, but I realized how much I’d been waiting for something to shift and for my heart to be uprooted all over again. I’d spent so much time in my life moving that I forgot what it was like to let my heart be still in the space I called home. This invitation to make a home wasn’t just one to grow up, but to grow into whatever the Lord is up to next.
Over and over in Scripture, we see that God gives His people a place to find peace. Paul closes his second letter to the Thessalonians with the blessing, “Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way” (2 Thessalonians 3:16). And sometimes, I think God gives us a chance to join Him in that process of making spaces that give us room to be at rest.
Finding peace and making a home looks different in different seasons. Sometimes, it’s hosting a dinner party. Sometimes, it’s saying no to overcommitments. Sometimes, it’s taking time to go on long walks to call a good friend. For others, settling into peace means showing up at small group or making a favorite recipe.
Home is where we make it.
So I started with that closet I’d been avoiding. I started getting rid of things I didn’t need, organizing what I used, and rearranging my clothes. I found the final touches of my apartment this weekend and the last thing I placed was a little bowl in which to put my keys and wallet when I walk in the door. It’s a place to set down what matters and remind myself that I can settle in, too.
This apartment has proved to be a steady little friend, a haven to return to and exhale with. She has seen me yell and weep and rejoice and cheer. She has been forgiving when I put nails in her walls and hung up favorite memories and paintings and family portraits. And she has become a home that was made when I had no imagination for a future of making one.